Sustainable Urbanization is Key to Successful Development

By Johnny Wood
Asia is the world’s global manufacturing powerhouse. But that supremacy has come at a cost.

As the largest continent on Earth, Asia covers 9% of the Earth’s total surface area. With growth in the region continuing to accelerate, Asian countries are beginning to make the switch to greener and less environmentally invasive methods of industry while remaining the world’s manufacturing powerhouse.

That Pollution Is Going to Cost You

According to the United Nations, today, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. With some of the world’s most populous cities located in Asia – around 13 million people live in Tokyo – policymakers in Japan’s de facto capital city are aiming to make their home the world’s leading eco-friendly megacity.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group, for example, is currently working with producers in Japan and Singapore to provide waste heat recovery applications to the steelmaking industry. These Organic Rankine Cycle systems use surplus heat from the manufacturing process to drive turbines which dissipate the heat, thus generating electricity from them. The same technology can also be utilized to turn biological waste products into heat and power.

Public officials have introduced an ambitious plan to clean up the capital city’s air pollution by lowering carbon emissions from 1,400 factories and office buildings. A cap-and-trade initiative sets limits on emissions and allows heavy polluters to buy spare capacity on the open market, restricting overall emissions and improving air quality overall.

Zoning in on Sustainability

China is also transforming its manufacturing role, leaving the past behind as the government champions a more sustainable economic future.

Despite the decrease in global energy demand, China’s share of worldwide demand continues to rise. To meet the increasing demand, businesses have moved away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable energy sources, reducing particle-matter emission rates and resulting in cleaner air in China’s heavily populated cities, though smog is still a significant problem in some areas. The Chinese national government is also investing heavily in cutting-edge technologies relating to renewables, reiterating the country’s commitment to investing in greener technology.

In light of this great opportunity, China’s legislators have created three sustainable development zones responsible for implementing sustainable manufacturing goals. Innovators in the zones will address issues like air and water pollution and integrate technologies in sewage treatment, waste management, ecology and AI with their solutions.

These initiatives follow and build upon the success of the earlier creation of a green manufacturing belt along the Yangtze river, with plans to create 500 green manufacturing demonstration plants and 50 industrial zones, as well as to promote over 5,000 green products. 

Although global growth in energy demand is slowing, China’s share of worldwide demand continues to grow.
Centering Energy

Another noteworthy trend is the rise of industrial parks throughout Asia, which has strengthened the reputations of countries like Vietnam and Indonesia as low-cost manufacturing hubs. It’s essential that new and existing parks adopt smart technology to maximize energy efficiency and lower production costs while also supporting cleaner manufacturing.

One way to achieve this is through energy center systems which use advanced data visualization, demand analysis and simulation tools to determine electricity, heat and water usage patterns, thereby optimizing their usage.

Equipment and energy co-generation systems can then be customized to the needs of each factory or industrial park to maximize energy efficiency.

Driving Change

Like many of its neighbors, India is moving away from traditional manufacturing to embrace cleaner, greener product technologies. The world’s fifth-largest car manufacturer is switching from traditional engines to electric and hybrid models, breaking the country’s dependency on fossil fuels and reducing the environmental impact of the automotive industry’s output.

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has demonstrated interest in the research and development of new fuels to make the country’s vehicles more environmentally friendly, including renewables like lithium and fuel cells.

Technology and innovation hold the key to a cleaner and more efficient manufacturing sector in Asia. While the journey from rapid industrializers to champions of environmental change has not been free of missteps, Asian manufacturers and producers across the region are embracing green initiatives aimed at combating the mistakes of the past, demonstrating their growing commitment to sustainable manufacturing.

Johnny Wood has been a journalist for over 15 years working in different parts of the world – Asia, Europe and Middle East. As well as an accomplished features writer he has edited several prestigious lifestyle magazines and corporate publications.

A version of this article was previously published on Forbes BrandVoice.